Phoe Chit, a prominent proponent of Myanmar’s traditional performing arts, was taken into custody last week for his role in opposing military rule, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The former chair of the Myanmar Thabin Association (MTA), who resigned from his position five days after last year’s coup, was arrested at his home in Yangon on November 30, the source said.
His close friend and colleague Shan Tun—a lyricist also known as Myanmarsar—was arrested while attempting to leave Yangon the same day, according to a man with professional ties to both men.
“Shan Tun was on his way to a show in Bagan and wasn’t arrested in the same place as Phoe Chit,” said the man, noting that they both lived in the same neighbourhood in Yangon’s Mingaladon Township.
“I’m assuming this means [Shan Tun] was tipped off,” he added.
While their exact whereabouts is unknown, it is believed that Phoe Chit and Shan Tun are currently being held at an interrogation centre.
“We were repeatedly denied permission to visit them, but we weren’t given any reason,” the man told Myanmar Now.
Following the coup, the newly installed regime issued warrants for the arrest of Phoe Chit and other celebrities who spoke out against the ouster of Myanmar’s elected civilian government.
The military council has not released a statement regarding the arrests. However, pro-junta social media pages claimed that Phoe Chit was funding People’s Defence Force groups opposed to the military takeover.
A renowned performer of thabin, a traditional dramatic art form that features song and dance, Phoe Chit has won several gold medals in Myanmar National Performing Arts competitions. His performances have earned him nationwide acclaim for more than a decade.
He is also known for his public support of democratic causes. To mark Martyrs’ Day in 2016—the year that the National League for Democracy (NLD) came to power—a theatre group that he founded performed a play about independence leader Aung San, who was also the father of NLD founder Aung San Suu Kyi.
In addition to resigning in protest from the MTA, Phoe Chit led several anti-junta demonstrations in Yangon in the coup’s immediate aftermath. He continued posting pro-democracy messages on social media until his arrest.